Failure to find basket in final 12 minutes dashes Grafton boys’ plan to upset undefeated Homestead
Thirsting for a statement win against Homestead last Friday night, the Grafton boys’ basketball team found no relief.
Instead, a second-half scoring drought drained the Black Hawks, who saw a seven-point lead fade into a 57-45 home loss.
After Logan Hilgart’s three-point basket gave Grafton a 43-36 advantage with 4 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter, his team failed to make another floor shot.
In fact, the Hawks’ only points in the final 12:42 came on two free throws by Will Birch early in the final period.
“We had poor spacing in our offense, which made it very easy for Homestead to defend us,” Grafton coach Bob Maronde said.
“In the third quarter, we had a lot of chances to build the lead, but we just didn’t execute. When we got an open look, we couldn’t make it.”
The Highlanders’ big rally, which included a 21-2 run to end the game, allowed them to improve to 3-0 in the North Shore Conference and 5-0 overall. But the win didn’t come easily.
Grafton trailed, 17-13, after one quarter but fought back in the second period. Birch hit a pair of three-pointers, and Nate Koehler added another, as the Hawks surged to a 26-21 lead with four minutes left in the half.
The lead see-sawed the rest of the quarter until Homestead took a 34-33 lead at intermission on a buzzer-beating tip-in by Jaylen Key.
Grafton stayed on the attack early in the third quarter and built a seven-point lead on back-to-back threes by Birch and Hilgart. However, after the Highlanders called a time-out, they extended their defense and began controlling the interior.
Jack Popp’s three-pointer with 1:50 left in the third period put Homestead ahead to stay at 44-43.
Popp, a sophomore guard, sparked his team’s comeback by scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second half.
“I thought we played really well in the first half on both ends of the court,” said Maronde, whose team fell to 1-2 in NSC play and 2-3 overall.
“We executed our offense and did a nice job defensively, but then we had some breakdowns. Our inexperience hurt us.”
Homestead guard Jerrod Walton caused big problems for Grafton early in the game. The senior sliced through the Hawks defense for 16 of his game-high 22 points before halftime.
Guard Seth Cooley also sparked the Highlanders with a pair of three-pointers in the second half.
Birch and Koehler paced Grafton with 11 points apiece, but their team was unable to establish an interior presence. Eight of the Hawks’ 11 field goals were three-pointers.
Despite the loss, Maronde remained upbeat about his team.
“We’ve got some young players who haven’t been playing together for very long,” he said.
“When I look at how far we’ve come since the start of the season, it’s pretty impressive.”
Grafton 59, West Allis Hale 49
A second-half rally carried the Hawks to a nonconference road win Dec. 10.
Grafton trailed, 24-22, at intermission but controlled play the rest of the way. A 22-15 run in the fourth quarter sealed the outcome.
Sophomore forward Luke Benzschawel led the Hawks with 19 points, and Hilgart, a freshman, added 16.
Hale got a game-high 21 points from Joey Archer.
This week, Grafton continued NSC play against Whitefish Bay on Tuesday and will host defending champion Germantown a 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Image Information: A QUICK STEP allowed Grafton guard Alex Teich to slip inside the Homestead defense Friday night. Grafton surged to a seven-point lead in the third quarter but faded down the stretch in a North Shore Conference loss. Photo by Sam Arendt